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Essential Anime: Castle of Cagliostro
For those of you unfamiliar with his exploits, Lupin the 3rd is a member ofthat time-honored and recently neglected archetype, the honorable thief. Createdin the 70's by shonen manga artist Monkey Punch, Lupin is supposedly thegrandson of an infamous French thief, Arsene Lupin. He and his travelingcompanions, the gruff but big-hearted marksman Jigen, and the mysterious samuraiGoeman, as well as their long-suffering pursuer Inspector Zenigata, have beenthe subject of three TV series and countless films. Out of all of these,Miyazaki's Castle of Cagliostro is widely agreed to be the best.Castle of Cagliostro is in many ways a humble, unambitious film. A simpletale, combining elements of well-established plot devices; the big heist, theprincess trapped in the tower, the evil count. Sure, we've seen all of thisbefore. Make no mistake, however, this "simple tale" will put a smileon your face within the first ten seconds, and keep it there until the endingcredits roll, whether you're watching it for the first or the fiftieth time.
So what makes this moviesuch a masterpiece? It's difficult to say exactly. It's just one of thosecircumstances where all the pieces happen to fall in exactly the right way, andthe result is something magical. From the gorgeous visuals, to the likablecharacters (even the villains), to the voice acting, everything comes togetherto form just the right blend of action, romance, comedy, and above all, cheese.(Cheese is the secret ingredient of spy movies everywhere; they would be lostwithout it.)On to the visuals. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Hayao Miyazaki, youowe it to yourself to become educated. He is responsible for such criticallyacclaimed works as Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä, My Neighbor Totoro,Kiki's Delivery Service, and most recently, Princess Mononoke. Castle ofCagliostro is one of his earliest films, but that doesn't mean his considerabletalent is any less obvious. The ominous presence of the castle itself, themagnificent landscapes (which are as breathtaking now as they were twenty yearsago), the Count's skittering foot soldiers, Lupin's astounding aquaticabilities, and even the opening car chase, which Steven Spielberg once called"the greatest car chase ever filmed". These are images that will stickin your mind for years to come, and you will find yourself turning it on to seea particular scene, and ending up watching the entire thing in spite ofyourself. It's just that kind of movie.Of course, the characters themselves are a major part of the movie's appeal.Watching Lupin in action, it's easy to see how he attracts the sort of loyaltyboth his fictional gang and his real life fans display. The interesting thingis, you learn more about him from what he doesn't do, and doesn't say, than byhis actions. The same goes for the rest of the gang. Despite the lack of wordsactually spoken about any of the character relationships, it becomes obvious asthe movie progresses just who everybody is and how they feel about each other.Inspector Zenigata is a good example of this. Though no words are directlyspoken about his past with Lupin, one immediately gets the sense that despitebeing life-long arch-enemies, they are the best of friends. This type ofcharacter development is very hard to achieve, because of it's subtlety, butwhen it works, it's far more believable, and Miyazaki has always been a masterof this technique.
No discussion of ananime would be complete without touching on the voice acting. Thankfully, Castleof Cagliostro shines in this area as well. Whether you're watching it in Englishor in Japanese, everybody somehow manages to sound exactly like who and whatthey are. Our hero Lupin, a good-natured rogue who may find himself on the wrongside of the law, but who has a strict set of morals that he always holds himselfto. Jigen, the sharp-shooting sidekick who seems gruff at first, but has more ofa soft spot for people than he will admit. Goemon, the soft-spoken samurai whoseems to understand Lupin better than anyone else, and travels with him out ofrespect for the person he is inside. Zenigata, the blustering and oftenconfounded Interpol inspector who is reluctant to admit how much he admires theman he has devoted his life to chasing. Fujiko, Lupin's beautiful rival whonever lets her feelings for him get in the way of a good theft, but is alwayswilling to lend a helping hand. With only a couple of minor exceptions in theEnglish version, (Gustav and Jodo...*cough cough*) the voice acting is topnotch, despite the lack of immediately recognizable names. Admittedly, this newdub lacks some of the charm of the first release, but on the other hand, it'smuch more accurate, following the script almost to the letter, except for alittle small talk added here and there. Also, for the first time ever, the villain'svoice sounds exactly the same in English and in Japanese.
These are all verycompelling reasons for purchasing Castle of Cagliostro, but the truth is, itbelongs in the collection of any serious anime fan because it's a slice of animehistory. A truly great film, and one that has been entertaining people fortwenty years, has finally been given the treatment it deserves. If you haven'tseen it yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a try, and if you have, then youhave a chance to see it again, as it was intended to be seen, with all theoriginal voices and none of the little snippets missing that were taken out forthe original American release. So what are you waiting for?- Essential Collection page written by Drave Cochems.